The Mascots of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA)
School spirit always finds a way at MCLA!
North Adams State Teacher’s College (NASTC) did not receive an official sports identity until the establishment of the men’s basketball team in 1945. Sports teams at NASTC were called the Professors or Teachers, which were used interchangeably. Although the Teachers may seem like an odd choice for a sports team name from a modern standpoint, it was quite commonly used with other teachers’ colleges. The NASTC Teachers played against at least three other teachers’ colleges which used the same name: the New Britain Connecticut State Teachers, the Salem State Teachers, and the New Hampshire based Plymouth State Teachers. Despite having a sports team name, there was no official character representative.
In 1940, a rag-doll creature of an indeterminate nature, named Stacey—after the STC in the College’s abbreviation—represented school spirit. Later, between the years of 1946 and 1950, the team was allegedly represented by the characters of a popular creation by Walt Disney, the Gremlins. However, there is minimal remaining evidence of this. In the 1950s, a penguin named Willie would act as a manifestation of school spirit in yearbooks.
The first official mascot came in the early 1960s, with the change of the College’s name, from NASTC to North Adams State College (NASC). The mascot that was chosen—through a community-based contest—was the Mohawks, named after both the Native American tribe and the local Mohawk Trail, a scenic highway in the surrounding area. It should be noted, however, that the Mohawk people, though indigenous to Eastern New York State, were not the indigenous people of North Adams. The NASC Mohawks were represented by the head of a “Mohawk” chief, in a feathered headdress, which underwent some slight physical “chang[e] back in 1991 to be historically correct.” The decision to change the mascot, despite being described as “seldom-used” in a local paper, was met with some opposition when the college began discussing changing it in 2001. The student newspaper, "The Beacon," became one such place where student, alumni, and faculty debated the change. By the Spring 2002 semester, it was decided that a replacement mascot would be determined through a community-wide contest, with the top three choices ultimately being the “Bobcats, Trailblazers, and Snow Devils.”
In the Fall semester of 2002, the College community had reached its verdict. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (which had undergone another name change, in 1997) would be the Trailblazers, named for the prevalence of local trails, “including the Appalachian, Mohawk, and Thunderbolt.” The new logo, designed by MCLA’s graphics designer and a student of the class of 2002, paid homage to the College’s new abbreviation (MCLA), as well as the mountainous trails of the region. College officials were satisfied with the name change, but ultimately desired a physical mascot “‘to have something we can have some fun with at games and other events, like the Fall Foliage Parade, camps, and clinics,” stated the athletic director, Scott Nichols. After another community contest in 2013, the school selected the mountain lion to be the official MCLA mascot.